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Generating Funding for an Asset Management Plan Through Infrastructure System Operation

by Jonan Castillon

posted in News and Society

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According to Dag Detter and Stefan Folster in their new book "The Public Wealth of Nations", a better management of these massive assets will improve the economy, living standards, and increase productivity of its residents, which will result to a decrease in public debt.
America's public wealth exceeds its public debt. So managing her infrastructure assets better can be a solution to deal with its huge public debt.
Visualize a profit of at least 1 person on global public asset would bring around $750 billion in revenues. Neglecting its failing infrastructure would only make things worse or costly in the long run.
The authors stated that many government-owned assets and corporations are not accounted for and do not reflect in the government's balance sheet. These add value to the public wealth if accounted well.
If managed well, these government-owned real estate holdings and corporation can amass up to US$2.7 trillion a year at an attainable return rate of 3.5 percent. Imagine how this amount can help alleviate public debt.
The authors argue that some public parks for example have operating expenses that results to a negative cash flow. The government in managing its public infrastructure should also consider how these assets appear in its balance sheet.
A thoughtful cost-benefit analysis on how these assets are handled will determine how it can be optimally used. They've observed that governments in general do not have a complete understanding of the value of their assets particularly those who are in debt.
They likened these public wealth to a gold mine waiting to be brought out in the open and professionally managed for the benefit of everyone. The US federal government owns more than one-fourth of its total land and a real estate portfolio valuing US$1.5 trillion - a gold mine indeed plus the US$6 trillion worth of real estate holdings that the state and local governments own.
Government-owned assets, building, highways, airports, and Amtrak railways could earn revenues if managed well instead of costing money to operate.
For instance if Amtrak could just service 23 states focusing on the high usage and profitable lines like the Northeast Corridor it could be more profitable. However, social benefit and value is also deemed important by society so even those low usage lines and terminals should still be serviced even at a cost.
It always looks good economically and politically for government to be generating income through infrastructure assets and not solely depend on tax collection. Nevertheless, it is also important that service quality and lifestyle of the community aren't compromised.
Detter and Folster's presentation needs careful consideration by infrastructure asset management authorities. Funding a generation is a very important component for sustainability of implementing an infrastructure asset management plan.
About the Author: Infrastructure asset management principles tells us that planned maintenance and renewals along with funding preparations are crucial for sustainable infrastructure development.
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